This month is a massive rush of new hardware. Users fond of high-powered portables are probably losing their minds; while Windows 8 and RT are of questionable value to desktop users, hardware designed to take advantage of them is flooding onto the market. Likewise, the SoCs powering smartphones continue to advance at a breakneck pace that hasn't really been seen since the dawn of the Pentium era. It's easy to forget that for how powerful portable technology has become, the potential for desktops and desktop workstations is downright monstrous.

For the foreseeable future, there will always be a need for CAD, video, and 3D rendering workstations. Basic desktop users see grossly diminishing returns on performance after about four logical cores (eight threads), but workstation tasks can still soak up every last ounce of performance you can throw at them. For major businesses where time very truly is money, that means needing the fastest hardware you can find and maintaining uptime for as long as humanly possible. That, in turn, means finding a workstation that's both reliable and easy to service. Lenovo hopes to address these needs with the ThinkStation D30, a dual-socket workstation capable of sporting up to sixteen cores and dual NVIDIA workstation cards (including the Quadro 6000 and Tesla cards for Maximus support).

In Lenovo's lineup, the D30 really is as big as it gets. We've seen more modest workstations from Dell and HP and even tested Intel's powerful Xeon E5-2687W, but this is the first dual-socket monster we've gotten our hands on. Our review unit is configured with a pair of E5-2687W processors along with a single NVIDIA Quadro 5000 graphics card. I want to be clear: this level of performance is probably available from other vendors (at what cost is another matter entirely), and Lenovo does have to contend with Dell's excellent desktop workstation designs as well as HP's stellar enterprise-class notebooks.

Lenovo ThinkStation D30 Specifications
Chassis Custom Lenovo
Processor 2x Intel Xeon E5-2687W
(8x3.1GHz, Turbo to 3.8GHz, 32nm, 20MB L3, 150W)
Motherboard Custom C600 Board
Memory 8x2GB ECC DDR3-1333 (four per CPU)
Graphics NVIDIA Quadro 5000 2.5GB GDDR5
(352 CUDA Cores, 513MHz/1026MHz/3GHz core/shader/RAM, 320-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Seagate Savvio 15K.3 300GB 15000-RPM SAS 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) TSSTCorp SH-216AB DVD+/-RW
Power Supply 80 Plus Bronze ATX PSU
Networking Intel 82574L Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC662
Speaker, line-in, and mic jacks
Front Side Optical drive
Card reader
2x USB 2.0
Mic and headphone jacks
Top Side Handle
Back Side Serial port
8x USB 2.0
2x Gigabit ethernet
2x USB 3.0
Mic, line-in, and headphone jacks
DVI-I
2x DisplayPort
6-pin FireWire
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 8.27" x 23.7" x 19.09"
(210mm x 602mm x 485mm)
Extras Card reader
vPro
Warranty 3-year onsite parts and labor
Pricing Starts at $1,399
Review system configured at $10,852

I've reviewed beefy, expensive hardware before, but never anything that went into the five figures. Enterprise-class systems often have absurd premiums attached to them, though, and those premiums help cover the cost of onsite service as the need arises. The Intel Xeon E5-2687W has an OEM price of nearly two large on its own, a TDP of 150W, and is basically the most powerful workstation chip Intel currently produces. Lenovo shipped our review unit with two, and each has 8GB (4x2GB) of ECC DDR3-1333 attached to it running in quad-channel for a total of 16GB of RAM.

On the GPU side is NVIDIA's Quadro 5000. The Quadro 5000 is a cut-down GF100, but remember that big Kepler, the GK110, was just released into the wild as a Tesla card and still has no workstation GPU equivalent. It has a maximum rating of 152 watts, substantially lower than desktop Fermi ever really hit, and has a nearly $1,800 price tag at retail. For this card, Lenovo only charges a modest upgrade premium, while the Xeons are marked up roughly 1/3 more than they list for.

Interestingly our review unit came with a single 2.5" SAS mechanical hard drive instead of an SSD, and I'm not entirely sure why they went this route. The drive has a $300 premium on its own; SSDs with similar capacity can be had at a similar price, but Lenovo's SSD storage options are severely limited. On their configuration page, only a 128GB SSD is available, and that's $200 more expensive than the SAS HDD. If Lenovo wants to be more competitive, they need to offer better choices for the storage subsystem than one 128GB SSD. When editing video, storage speed can become very important in a hurry; if your system is bottlenecked by your storage subsystem, your CPU won't be able to stretch its legs, and I can see that issue exacerbated on a 16-core, 32-thread demon like this one.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • theduckofdeath - Friday, November 16, 2012 - link

    *rack mounted Reply
  • afkrotch - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    It doesn't take a fanboy to see that Apple simply updates too slowly and that just isn't going to be an option where time is money. Reply
  • melgross - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    Very amusing. You must do standup. Reply
  • twtech - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    I would expect at least 32GB of RAM, preferably 64GB. There are other uses for a machine like that, but some compilers can use as much as 1.5GB per thread. With 16GB of RAM, you wouldn't even be able to use half the threads without hitting the swap file. Reply
  • Joschka77 - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    Thats exactly what i was thinking, too.
    Got an HP Z 820 with two E5 2680 and 128GB of RAM next to me...
    This thing is a beast...
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    Got a z820 as well a few months ago, but IT's standard layout is 8x2 GB as well.
    ordererd 4x8GB to add - but the board doesn't support that as 48GB combination, so only running 32gigs.

    Need moar memory.
    Colleague is eyeing ordering another 32 to at least get the machine to be slightly more usable..
    Reply
  • Joschka77 - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    As far as i know mixed RAM sizes should be possible; have you had a look at the Service manual for the Z820? There´s a hint in what order the Dimms should be placed. ->
    heres a link:
    http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/C...
    Reply
  • afkrotch - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - link

    My last job I was running a Dell T7500. The more ram, the better. I didn't need as much processing power, but needed memory. Was using it for system integration work, so I was running multiple VMs. 16 gig of ram and I was running out all the time. Having to pause/shutdown a VM to fire up another one. Reply
  • duploxxx - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    If you want to really push the build quality and design, don't compare a 2 socket WS with 1 socket systems.
    You need to compare this system with a HP z620 and a Dell T5600.

    If you really want to bring the added value over these way overprised CPU you need to find very specific applications to do so... for 99% they are never needed besides EGO. These days most will run just fine with a 1 socket WS with all the cpu power existing today.
    Reply
  • extide - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    For the people who buy these systems, even dual E5-2687W's is still too slow. Reply

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